Sunday, December 2, 2012

Take THAT, Middle School!

This in the late-breaking-news category:

Gove Middle School attendees the world over will be pleased to know that our former prison, uh, or rather, school has been demolished.

Gove Middle School

Built in 1975, across the street from the previous Gove Junior High (a beautiful Italian Renaissance Revival building that was closed, partially demolished, and then finally put to rest in a large conflagration as the new Gove was going up), the new building was meant to be a modern paragon of junior high educational architecture. 

Gove Junior High School, the elder. 

Ah, 1970s architecture. Unlike the previous Gove, a castle it was not. Fortress was more like it. In fact, that school would have made a wonderful hideout in case of zombie apocalypse. And I should know: I attended the school, and I think about these kinds of things.

Can it even compare? The "new" Gove. 

What made the new Gove such a great zombie shelter was precisely what made it a miserable place to attend school: few windows and even fewer doors. The lack of egress to the outdoors created an environment that was entirely interior--airless, soulless, complete with linoleum flooring and neon lighting. I thought the tween years were my most awkward because of the braces, the bad hair, and the growth spurts...but maybe it was just poor lighting?

From the outside the building was not much better: a giant bland beige box sans decorative features, set up on a hill, surrounded by a chain link fence. Throw in some blacktop and trash swirling in a lonely circle around the edges of the building, and you have the picture. How uninviting. Ayn Rand's Howard Roark could not have been prouder of such a building had he conceived it himself.

Gove's main entrance was sequestered at the back of the building, sheltered in a cove that guaranteed the outside world would have no idea the building was inhabited. Gove somehow managed to violate Jane Jacobs's ironclad philosophy of successful urban spaces: that active blocks with lots of bodies moving about (check) encourage community engagement and safety (um, no). Instead, drivers along Colorado Boulevard would not know a soul was in attendance at that school, unless there happened to be a fire drill right as they happened by.

Enhancing my ire for the school years between the ages of 12 and 14, was that I learned little of great import during that time. Recent discussions questioning the usefulness of college, such as this recent NY Times article (Saying No to College), miss the point. I learned much of use in college: much that I might not have gleaned elsewhere, and certainly not in such large overwhelming concentrations. High school as well was a period of personal renaissance.

The period where I learned next-to-nothing was middle school. I learned to balance a checkbook in a math class-- a skill I rarely find recourse to as an adult-- and I learned I have a great love for languages. French and Spanish set me on my way to more of both, as well as forays into Russian, Norwegian, you name it. Wonderful as this knowledge was, I was more likely to have stumbled upon languages of my own accord, than I would have been to pick up an algebra or chemistry book. Interest in the STEM disciplines was lost to me at this time, not to be regained until much, much later in life.

Lest you think I curse our former teachers, I would not be quick to lay harsh blame at their feet. It wasn't entirely the fault of the teachers; no, those ennobled souls tried to drill sense and facts into our hard little heads. Unfortunately, the prison-like aura of the school held true even in class: many of our teachers spent far, far too much time wrangling miscreants, leaving them with less time to educate. Students who were eager to please, who yearned for more than packaged information passed around on a one-size-fits-all tray, were left to fend for themselves outside of class. Thank goodness I was a reader.

So now after having razed the reputation of my demolished school building, I can admit I was curious to see how the new owner of the lot, National Jewish Hospital, planned on revitalizing such a cursed, unfortunate space. After a year of watching demolition and much dirt-shifting and apparent complicated construction, what do we find? A parking lot. And a park, of sorts. Kind of. Okay, barely.

Parking Lot Plans 
Image via NJH.

While I am inherently grateful to National Jewish Hospital for ridding the world of this scourge of architecture/all my deep-seated childhood nightmares, I am also quick to push aside this gratitude. When news of the sale had first circulated, I had images of a shiny new hospital building for pulmonary sufferers--a group very close to my heart, no pun intended--rising from the school ashes. I also dreamt they might borrow from the sweet dreams playbook of all modern city planners: a multi-purpose business/hospital/hotel that would revitalize a dead zone section of Colorado Boulevard. Initial local newspaper coverage seduced us with this possibility. Alas, this is not to be. The hallowed grounds of former Gove Middle School are destined to become...a parking lot.

How mundane.

On second thought, how fitting.


For another view on Gove, see TQE's amusing blog post. By the way, I totally stole my image of the rubble from his site. Stealing: another "helpful" skill that was thick on the ground in middle school!

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